Eye Spy Christmas Ornaments

ornament

Every year, HiSKidZ at our church make an ornament for the Christmas tree that goes in the foyer. What began as an activity has become a tradition and through the years we have created some really precious treasures that help HiSKidZ relive the spiritual markers of their lives at our church.

Each ornament retells or symbolizes a spiritual truth or Bible story. Since our theme this year has been “Take Me to Your Leader,” we made “Eye Spy” ornaments. Each ornament is filled with 10 items that can help a child lead someone to Jesus.

The ornaments were easy to make and relatively inexpensive. We started with plastic snap together balls from Amazon and filled them with either colored sand or colored rice, depending on the age of the children (It was a major win that we already had both of these items at the church so there was no cost or work for us to do here!) We found the rice much less messy for the younger children to work with.

We made this during our Wednesday night small groups and as each item was added to the sand/rice, our small group leaders talked HiSKidZ through the symbolism behind each ornament.

Here’s a list of our 10 items:

ornament tag

1) Star–led people to Baby Jesus
2) Heart–God loves us so much He sent Jesus
3) Baby Jesus–born so we could be reconciled to God
4) Dove–Came down and rested on Jesus when He was baptized
5) Pearl–Jesus used this to teach us about the Kingdom of God
6) Mustard Seed–Jesus used this to teach us about faith
7) Nail (tack)–Jesus was nailed to the cross with this
8) Die–Soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothes
9) Cross–Where Jesus dies
10) Crown–What we will receive some day in heaven

After putting all the items in. We shut them tight and tied a ribbon with a card that explained what was in our ornament. Both HiSKidZ and their leaders agreed this is one of our favorite in recent years. I love all the symbolism and the super fun way kids engage in learning about Jesus and being able to share Him with others through this year’s ornament!

Each year these ornaments hang on our tree at church. After Christmas we take the ornaments down and send them home with the kids for use on their own tree next year.

Note:
We chose and purchased items based on what we could find. If we had something in particular in mind and couldn’t find it, we just asked the Lord to show us something else we could use to tell others about Him. We used Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, JoAnn Fabrics and the upstairs resource room the church to find everything we needed!!! So don’t be afraid to switch things up a bit, creating your own eye spy ornament.

The Fine Art of Appreciation

thank you

Recently my boss retired after 40 years of ministry in the same church. You don’t often see longevity like that any more, and I am so blessed to have worked with a man who taught me so much through his words, but even more through his life.

However, my life wasn’t the only one touched. We asked some of our children and students who attend the Christian school at our church to create artwork and write notes of appreciation.

Precious doesn’t begin to describe some of what they shared.

“So sorry that you are retiring. You were at the church for 40 years I think. What are you going to do in your free time? I’d probally go ice-skating or do gymnastics. You are the longest preacher I have known for like my whole life. We had some good times, but you’ll always be my favorite.”

“Were so sade your leaving.”

“I hope you have fun man.”

“Good luck in your future and now God is with you.”

“I’m sorry that your going to a different church. I hope you like it. Good Luk. I hope I’ll see you Sunday.”

“Good Luck. Congratulations for retirement. You were nice.”

“Thank you. Friend of God. Preacher of God.”

“Happy I love you.”

“Thanks for the encouraging words you give me. The sermons you preach at school are easy to understand, which helps me apply it to my life. I appreciate the smiles you give me. Hope your retirement is as good as can be. God Bless you, good luck.”

“We are very sad you are going into retirement. You were my favorite preacher and you always made me laugh. One of my favorite sermons was when you put on a wig and became Sampson. Thank you for making me a servant master. I really think you brought me closer to Christ Jesus in your sermons thank you very much.”

Children may not always understand everything. They may not get the grammar or the spelling right. They may not have the best penmanship, but my-oh-my what a great job they can do making someone feel loved and appreciated.

It’s a fine art, appreciation. One worthy of the short time it takes to jot down a note, draw a picture, make a call or yes, even send a text.

With Christmas beginning in October, (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post) be sure to take some time in November to allow your family to share together in the fine art of appreciation. You’ll be thankful you did.

thank you 4

thank you 3

thank you 2

Using Worms for Bait (and Other Great Stories to Help Kids Dig Deeper into God’s Word)

Using worms for bait (1)

In some ways, the church where I serve isn’t that much different than a lot of other churches. Although we encourage children and their parents to read, study, know and live out God’s Word, it is often a challenge.

As a result we work at finding creative ways to help kids want to dig deeper in the God’s Word. One method way we use to move kids to want to read the Bible for themselves is to point them to some of the slightly unusual things that are in the pages of Scripture that they may not have seen or heard about before.

For example, our 6th graders are currently studying the New Testament. As we went digging into the pages of Acts we found worms. What preteen doesn’t want dig for worms–especially in the Bible? So we used that time to be sure to share with them Herod’s story from Acts 12:21-22 and the important truth of giving glory to God.

“Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”

There are so many other great or at least slightly unusual stories that can peak kids’ interest in the Bible causing them to go home and read more for themselves.

Here are a few of the favorites with our kids:

Elijah Runs Raster Than a Chariot
I Kings 18:46

Elisha and the Bears
II Kings 2:23-25

The Really Big King with the Really Big Bed
Deuteronomy 3:11

The Man With 12 Fingers and 12 Toes
II Samuel 21:20

Going to the Bathroom Bible Style
Deuteronomy 23:12-14

Almost Any of the Judges
Book of Judges

Shipwrecks and Snakebites
Acts 27:13-28:6

Grabbing kids’ attention and directing them to the Word is a calling of such great importance. While it may not always be a good idea to use shock or disbelief just for the sake of it, sometimes it can be a very good thing to use to instill a desire and hunger to know more about the Bible.

C’mon, dig in, and let’s get ‘em hooked on God’s Word!

You Will Not Talk to Your Mother That Way (and Other Great Things My Husband Said to Our Kids)

FarrisFamily2014-30
I have a really great husband. We have spent almost thirty years together and have raised two pretty great sons together.

He’s not a perfect husband. . . which is just fine. I’m not a perfect wife.

I am so thankful that Tim has always set such a good example for our sons. He’s one of the quiet dads, he may not say much most of the time, but when he does, it’s generally worth listening to.

Here are ten really great things he has said through the years that are worthy of passing along to the dads out there who are working to find their way in the parenting world.

1) You will not talk to your mother that way. She is your mother.

2) Let’s help your mom clean up.

3) Keep going. Don’t quit.

4) You keep driving from your direction. I’ll start from mine. If the car breaks down again, stay where you are until I get to you. If it keeps going, we’ll meet up and caravan home.

5) Great report card.

6) Hop in the truck, let’s go for a drive.

7) We’re going for it. If we have to turn back, we will. But if we make it, we’ll have one of the best times of our lives. (By the way, they made it, and they did, indeed, have one of the best times of their lives.)

8) I’m proud of you.

9) Good effort, son.

10) This is who we are. This is what we do.

Both of our boys have an overwhelming admiration for their father. He is strong, quiet, faithful, hard working and industrious. And he loves us. We know that, not just because he says that with his words, but because he models it to us every day in the little things he does and in the examples he has set.

Dads, I’m always telling the moms, “It’s the little things that are the big things.”

Be the dad in the little things, because those will be the biggest things in your kids’ lives.

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On and one more:
#11) Real Men Hold Their Wives Purses.

Thanks to Sam McGhee for allowing us some time for silly snapshots during our family photo session. To learn more about Sam’s work go to http://www.sammcghee.com

5 Things to Know About Social Media and Your Child

Today’s blog post is adapted from a parent talk my non blogging kidmin son, Trevor Farris, has put together for the church where he is a children’s pastor. I asked him if I could share it, because I believe every parent needs to be aware of what’s going on in their child’s social media world. Trevor ministers to some super amazing kids and with some even more amazing volunteers at Valley Real Life is Spokane Valley, WA. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out.

Social Media is big, but think about it—it’s the smallest that it is ever going to be.

Every day, more videos, tweets, pictures, and blogs are being uploaded onto the Internet than ever before. This chart from domo.com gives some pretty convincing evidence that social media is big–every minute of every day. Go ahead, take a second and check it out really quick.

every minute of every day

Those are some insane statistics! As more and more websites and apps are being created, it’s nearly impossible for adults to keep up . . . but. . . it’s not for your kids.

So here are 5 things you need to know about Social Media, your child, and what you can do to be more informed about it.

1. Your Kids Probably Know More Than You About Social Media
This is by no means an insult. They simply have the time to learn! With texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, KiK, AskFM, Omegle, and a million other options, they can absorb more budding technology than we can dream of. And they use it for everything! So what do you do?

2. Ask Them to Teach You
You don’t know if your child is ready for SnapChat? Ask them about it! Are you not sure how Instagram works? Ask your son/daughter! You need to know what your kids are doing, because there is so much that they are able to do on their iPods and phones. But please understand this—you don’t need to know more about technology than them…just being aware is a huge step.

3. Remember ANYONE Can Use Social Media
Speaking of being aware…it is really easy to lie about who you are on the Internet. Your children may not be sharing information with the person that they think they are. Make sure that your kids are using appropriate social media (Honoring age restrictions is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), and are familiar your rules on Internet etiquette.

4. Community in Isolation
Kids and teens today have hundreds and thousands of friends. And if they are anything like me, they don’t know who most of them are! If someone sends me a friend request on Facebook, and I have a mutual friend…BAM! we’re friends now. And they can have all these friends at their fingertips while they sit in their bedroom alone. They don’t have to go out and have conversations. Be sure to have “Tech-free” times in your home when personal interaction is required to keep your kids checked in to reality.

5. #Hashtags
For those of you who still don’t understand hashtags, you are not alone. Hashtags are sort of like little file folder tabs that help you created to help you find what you are looking for on a certain topic. Let’s say you and your family go on a short vacation to Six Flags St. Louis for Spring Break. Your daughter posts a selfie from the line of the Batman ride. And the caption says, “I LOVE SIX FLAGS! #RollerCoasters #Family #SpringBreak.” But you need to realize that when she clicks on the “#SpringBreak,” she has access to ANYONE’S pictures that have that same tag. Think about that. I’m assuming there are pictures from Spring Break Cancun on the Internet that you’d love for your kids to never see. Know what hashtags your kids are using, because they can have access to all sorts of things they probably shouldn’t.

In short, talk to your kids about what they’re doing online and on their phones. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to have a different set of family rules than other families you know (or don’t know). Give them rules and guidelines that keep them safe, and as you expand those guidelines as they get older continue to have conversations with them. *

Three Ways Going P.R.O. Helps Kids Grow Spiritually

helping kids go pro

To really grow, we have to let God work inside of us. I mean, we can try to do it on our own, and we can try with all our might, but in reality, it must be God who moves and works in us to bring about change.

To help kids to learn to rely on Jesus to help them grow spiritually rather than striving to “be good” on their own, teach them to go “PRO” by using these three simple concepts based on the acronym PRO.

1) Pray—Begin by asking God to seek your heart and show you where He wants to work. As He reveals any areas that may need to change, confess them to Him and . . .

2) Repent—More than just changing our actions, repentance involves a change of mind trusting God’s way over ours. True repentance is the action that shows a change of our hearts and minds from our way to God’s way which means we will. . .

3) Obey—We want our kids to learn that in order to grow we have to obey God’s will and follow His Spirit and His ways. Spiritual growth will come when as our hearts learn that obedience is a gift of love and should be the first choice of those who belong to Jesus.

We all know that few of our students will go pro in their favorite sport, but by using a phrase they already relate to, we can help them learn through prayer, repentance and obedience how to go pro in their spiritual growth with the Lord.

Prayer Time Shouldn’t Be a Rare Time—Helping Kids Grow in Their Prayer Life through Prayer Posters

prayer photo
This month HiSKidZ at our church are learning about prayer. It seems that while we pray a lot, we haven’t done the best job of teaching about prayer, and since even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, it’s something we should be giving some thought to as we disciple our children in their faith walks with God.

We are loosely using Discpletown’s How to Pray curriculum and tweaking it to fit our own format and structure. Each week this month we are looking at different aspects of prayer connected to the word pray—Praise, Repentance, Asking and Yielding. It’s nothing new, but it’s definitely worth bringing out to a new generation to help them grow in their conversations with the Lord.

This week, HiSKidZ in our Discovery/Sunday School hour will be making these prayer posters to help them understand each of the 4 aspects of prayer that we are teaching.

The idea is so simple.

All you need is four envelopes, a piece of poster board, some tape, some markers or crayons, a hole punch and a piece of yarn.

Tape the envelopes to the poster board. On each one write one of the aspects of prayer. Punch holes in the top corners and string some yarn through them so they can hang their poster up at home.

The idea is that children and their family can write out prayers and put them in the envelopes. Writing out prayers, even simple prayers helps us to focus and think about things like praise, repentance, what we are asking for and yielding to what God is asking us to do.

Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog http://www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris